By John T.
As I walk into the venue I’m given a name tag and tread apprehensively across the bar floor, quietly attempting to discern those looking for love from the people merely supping post-work beers and cocktails. I’m apprehensive to approach anybody.
“Hello sir, are you here for speed dating?” asks a waitress. A moment’s hesitation is quickly followed by a nod before she reveals that I’m entitled to two free drinks — presumably for Dutch courage and to help alleviate any pre-date jitters.
Clutching my drink, I eventually head over to my fellow speed-daters. The scene resembles a junior high school prom with the men and women grouped separately in opposing corners. Apparently, I’m not the only one feeling a tad self-conscience.
Minutes of awkward small talk pass before the organizers bring the two tribes together to explain the rules and format of the night’s event. It’s straightforward stuff — ladies stay stationary, men rotate every four minutes and both are given a piece of paper to tick boxes of those they’d like to meet again. If any matches are made, contact details are emailed the next day and everyone presumably lives happy ever after. We’re told to have fun and are encouraged to be as offbeat as possible in order to avoid repeatedly asking the standard questions such as “What do you do?”, “Where are you from?” and “What do you like to do at the weekend?”
And with that we’re off. I take a seat opposite my first date and catch her off guard by immediately asking what animal she’d like me to be and what color she thinks Tuesday is. Obviously confused by my unexpected line of catechism, date number one gets off to more of a stutter than a canter.
Proceedings gradually improve over the remaining dates, with an array of disparate personalities providing a variety of conversation. The four-minute time limit increasingly feels shorter with each girl I meet, leaving some encounters on a tantalizing knife-edge that could provide the right amount of bait required for a second rendezvous. Also, the pensive atmosphere that initially smothered the evening has dissipated; the room is full of chatter, laughter and smiles, and everyone appears to be having fun.
Interestingly, a majority of the women participating are Vietnamese and all of the men are foreign which, unfortunately, means that those clichéd conversation fillers inevitably arise.
“A lot of expat men complain that they find it difficult to find women who are independent, interesting, attractive, and who they can converse with,” she says.
Adding, “The role of women is also changing rapidly in Vietnam, particularly in urban areas. There are more professional, educated and financially independent Vietnamese women than ever before. Some of these women actually face challenges with Vietnamese men who are not prepared to let go of traditional and aging ideas about the role of women”.
Following the end of my micro-dates, I can’t say I’ve made a true love connection, however, a few trends have been spotted. Most of the participants are young professionals working in high-pressured and long-hour jobs such as sales, marketing, events and advertising, and are generally in their mid-to-late 20s and 30s. While finding it generally easy to meet people in Saigon’s chaotic bars and nightclubs, most struggle to make meaningful connections with people, either romantically or otherwise, in a relaxed setting.Learn More